Deputy President of the Senate, and the Chairman of Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has again reiterated that the National Assembly has no power to replace the 1999 constitution with a brand new document, saying that some provisions of the constitution can only be alterated.
Omo-Agege, who represents Delta Central senatorial district at the Senate, while reacting to the recent calls by Nigerians for a brand new constitution, stated that the National Assembly lacks such powers.
According to him, the National Assembly only has the power to amend the constitution.
In light of the current development and sectional bickerings across the country, many Nigerians have been calling for a new constitution. Many had argued that the present 1999 constitution was imposed on the country by the military government, adding that the constitution does not recognise the interest of Nigerians.
However, the Deputy Senate President who spoke during a interview session with the Channels TV, monitired by The New Diplomat, Thursday, faulted the call, saying that section 9 of the 1999 constitution does not make provision for such.
According to him, embarking on a new constitution would amount to gross violation of the oath of allegiance.
Speaking further, Omo-Agege explained that it is almost impossible to rewrite a new constitution as it requires a staggering four-fifth of the Assembly votes.
In his explanation, the section 9 of the constitution must first be amended to make provision for a new constitution. Speaking further, he added that to amend the section 9, 88 senators out of 109 senators must vote for the amendment while 288 House of Representatives members out of the 360 must vote for the amendment.
In his words, “Frankly, this very issue has become topical of late. For some of us, we have the responsibility to educate the people who don’t know, but it a little bit perplexing and annoying to hear those who know and indeed who do know that we do not have the power to rewrite a new constitution. The only power we have is to alter the constitution. That is what is provided under the section 9 of the constitution.”
“What section 9 of the constitution says is that we can alter any provision of the constitution, it doesn’t say we can alter all of the provisions of the constitution. It also proceeds to set out the methodology and the mode to do just that. For you to be able to do a rewrite of the constitution you need to amend the section 9 of the constitution, and for you for amend the section 9 of the constitution you require ⅘ votes in the Senate, which is about 88 senators out of the 109, and you require about 288 members of House of Rep out of 360, just to amend section 9 by itself.”
“If you need section 9 amended you have to go forward to that effect. As I speak, we have received more than 350 memoranda on the amendment of the Constitution, and not 1 is requesting for the amendment of section 9, because they know how difficult it is to muster 88 votes out of 109.”
“The bottom line is this, under the Constitution, the few we are permitted to do is incremental alteration.”
Speaking further, Omo-Agege cited advanced democracies like the United States of America (USA), saying the country has never once rewritten its 232-year-old constitution. He added that US has only be amending the constitution because no one has the power to rewrite a new constitution.
The Deputy Senate President also urged Nigerians who want a new constitution to mobilise themselves and mount pressure on their respective representatives at the National Assembly, adding that the only way to get a new constitution is if the section 9 is amended.